Water For Elephants: A Rube’s-Eye View Pt 2

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Cody Wood, an extra in Rob’s new project ‘Water For Elephants which is still in production, is recapping his experience on the set and is graciously sharing it with fans. Here is Pt 2 of his WFE adventure. Enjoy…

Screams echoed around and around and my heart pounded. Leaping over hay bales I came bounding almost even with the llama again….”CUT!!!! CUT!” shouted the assistant director. Everyone came to a stop and looked around. Twenty feet to my right an elephant lifted its trunk in the air. The megaphone rang out again. “Places everyone. Great job. Places.” We all marched back to our starting positions and tried to collect ourselves for another stampede.

Francis Lawrence, the director, sat under a black awning against the circus bleachers. His face was calm with a slight smile of satisfaction as he watched the footage. He exchanged words with the AD (Assistant Director). Almost immediately I heard the cue: “Pictures up!” A pause. “And BACKGROUND!” On background we all began the exhilarating sprint from danger once more. A plume of dust rose from our pounding feet and swirled around the swinging lamps. Wind pushed the top of the tent up and down like waves. As the motion of canvas, lamps, and people rushed about, the enormous elephant stood calmly in the center of the ring. “And CUT! Thank you folks! Good job.”

On my walk back across the circus floor I noticed a new excitement. There was no audible noise but something seemed different. When I came around the last large tent pole Pattinson had appeared at the end of the menagerie. I heard the start of the AD’s instructions. “Rob, we’re going to have you….” The young actor looked controlled and confident even while hundreds of Rubes tried to secretly glance in his direction. Most of the cast had arrived at their original mark but I was still walking. Fortuitously I was placed near the entrance to the tent just a few feet from where Rob was now standing.

While the cinematographer gathered lighting calculations I was instructed to wait for Rob to hit his second mark and run past him going out the menagerie. Again, the speed at which the cues came was surprising. The AD instructed, “Pictures Up, and Background”. On “background” the crowd began the stampede away from the menagerie. A third cue came for Rob and on “action” he became Jacob Jankowski. He took a slow step toward the running crowd and looked on with awe. He took another step and scanned the crowd left to right. From behind the camera I sprinted as fast as I could just past Jacob. The crowd was still screaming and running in the other direction. I hopped to my right to avoid a tent pole and stopped dead. My breath was gone and my eyes were frozen. A few feet in front of me stood an enormous buffalo. Dark thick fur covered the entire animal except for the large blood-shot eyes that looked directly at me. I methodically moved each foot backward while the stampede continued on in the tent. Finally the word “Cut” came bellowing out from the tent and gladly moved back to safety.

Rob was smiling at the director. He was obviously tickled by the intensity and size of the stampede. The entire experience was authentic. There were peanuts scattered on the ground and popcorn boxes tipped in the bleachers. Along the menagerie a host of animals did their part to make the scene possible and center ring the massive elephant stood like royalty. There was so much to take in that the twelve hour day passed like minutes.

After a long drive home I dropped onto the couch. My feet were sore and I could still taste a little dust but I couldn’t stop thinking about what the next day would have in store…

TO BE CONTINUED

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